January 12, 1878

Under the heading “Temperance Topics” the editor in the 1878 issue of The Island Review reports more than 650 people attended a temperance meeting that week and a new group called “Reformed Men’s Club” would begin meeting the following week. And, he noted, “It is said that some people in this town are so strictly temperate that they won’t even allow a piece of “corned” meat in their house.” In its broad definition temperance means either to abstain from alcohol or use it moderately. On Nantucket the term came to mean no drinking alcohol of any kind.

Around the country temperance reform gained in popularity throughout the 19th Century. In 1838, Massachusetts banned the sale of less than 3 gallons of alcohol per household per year, but repealed the law in 1840. In 1851 a Nantucket Friends of Temperance group called for a law based on the “Maine Temperance Law,” the first state law of its kind.  The Bay State did pass a similar law, only to have it struck down the following year by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. In 1855 a new Massachusetts temperance law was passed.

Temperance took root on Nantucket and an October 1881 Nantucket Journal item noted “Five years ago the great temperance wave which swept over the country reached Nantucket and made its influence for good felt in the community generally and in many a household in particular. Nearly one hundred men who were more of less addicted to drinking intoxicating liquor publicly renounced the practice and endeavored to overcome appetite.”

Excerpted from On This Day In Nantucket History
By Amy Jenness
The History Press
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The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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